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Mitt Romney's Florida endorsement coup

Mitt Romney will pick up the ultimate Cuban-American endorsement trifecta Tuesday in South Florida: The support of U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, and his brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

The endorsements of the Miami Cuban-American leaders is a leading indicator that Romney is making a big push in Florida for one of its most crucial voting blocs in the state's Republican primary, scheduled for Jan. 31.

“It’s a major boost for any candidate when the three of them get together and move in one direction,” said Carlos Curbelo, a Miami-Dade School Board member who has worked for the Diaz-Balart brothers.

“They represent this community,” he said. “In Miami-Dade, their support is crucial.”

Romney learned that the hard way in 2008 when the three representatives joined another Cuban-American leader, then-Sen. Mel Martinez, and endorsed John McCain.

McCain effectively ended Romney’s candidacy by winning Florida’s GOP primary with a margin of 97,000 votes. McCain’s Miami-Dade margin: 52,000.

Miami-Dade is Florida’s largest and most-Hispanic county. Hispanic voters, nearly all of whom are of Cuban descent, account for 72 percent of the roughly 368,000 registered Republicans in the county.

Exit polls showed McCain took 51 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2008 primary, while Romney only garnered 15 percent support in Florida, the nation's largest swing state.

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